Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Free-Choice, Force Fed, or Both?

I was recently asked to compute an oral daily dose of ABC’s ‘Cu-Mix’, a product formulated for free-choice oral use. A small group of young goats had been diagnosed with signs of copper deficiency. The client wanted to supplement her planned free-choice feeding of Cu-Mix with an oral dose of the same product to insure adequacy.

     Whoa! Back up the truck!
              That’s a really bad idea.
                        Here’s why!

  • Force feeding the product is an off-label use and not recommended. Veterinarians may override this restriction but in so doing assume liability.
  • Free-choice feeding AND force-feeding the same product negates the very essence of the cafeteria-style concept as it eliminated the animal’s opportunity to exercise its innate nutritional wisdom.
  • At certain levels, copper can be toxic. In a previous age of veterinary medicine we used an oral, liquid dose of a mixture of copper sulfate and nicotine sulfate it as a wormer for ruminants. Dosage was related to body weight. There was a fine line between  killing the worms or the host animal. Force feeding potentially toxic minerals of and kind is never wise.

If you want to reap the benefits of cafeteria-style mineral feeding, you have to do it right — minerals are team players, so play the entire team. It doesn’t make make much sense to have only one player on a basketball court and it makes even less sense to only provide a source of copper, for example, in a mineral program.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Minerals Are Team Players

A fellow approached me with a question about one of ABC’s products. His nutritionist had recommended he add some B vitamins to his rations. He was wondering if the BVC-Mix would be suitable. I’m sure I shocked him when I told him that there were probably other and better choices. I went on to explain. BVC-Mix was not designed to be a stand-alone ration additive. It was formulated to be one part of a specialized group of minerals and vitamins to be separately self-fed to livestock in a cafeteria setting.

The BVC-Mix was specifically designed not only to provide a source of B vitamins but also to provide other ingredients that support the production of essential vitamins in the gastrointestinal tract of the target animals. It is part of the team with 14 or more other players. The players on the team, working together, supply balanced vitamins and minerals to the animals.

Consider Mulder’s Wheel. This mineral wheel shows interactions of 21 minerals out of a total of 118 that have been identified. Any change to one element affects at least two more and each of those affects two more, etc. Deficiencies or excesses of some elements alter the availability of other elements. These are individualized with regard to what the animals eat on a daily basis and further modified by individual variations in daily requirements of each separate mineral. I doubt even a modern computer could sort it out; but an animal, with the help of a team of minerals and vitamins, can make the adjustment to its daily requirements.

What would happen if you pulled a couple of key players from a baseball or basketball team?

What would it sound like if you silenced every 12th instrument of a concert orchestra or every 12th singer in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir?

What would happen if you disconnected a couple of spark plugs from a V8 gasoline enine?

What happens to animals when they do not have the 12 or 15 member mineral and vitamin team available to them?

Go Team !

This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc Holliday's Blog on December 20, 2016

Friday, June 12, 2020

Victory Gardens Are On the Rise

If you are not interested in riots and protests, coronavirus, or  political backbiting there isn’t much noteworthy news out there — even climate change seems to be on a back burner.

So, I decided to reminisce  a little.  After spending all of our lives in the Midwest, last year we moved to Idaho to be with our daughter and her family..  It’s not easy to leave family and friends.  Here is a Journal Entry from  Saturday, 16 Jun 2018
 “I am 85
years old today!!  I never thought I’d make it to this age.   It was a nice morning and I took a little stroll around the  yard and admired Ruth’s garden.  It is a perfect example of her green thumb and her love of being outside working with her plants.  Over the years, we have put in a lot of work fixing up the place  — walks, fences, deck, raised beds, trees, etc.  It is certainly a reflection of both of our personalities — but mostly Ruth’s.  It will be hard to leave this place.  If we leave next summer we will have lived here for 28 years, longer than we have lived anyplace else.” 

I don't know if the wall of plants in the one pictures is tomatoes or cucumbers, but whatever they are they were still growing

As I write this we have lived in Idaho for almost a year. We are reasonably well acclimated to the area and to our home and family here.  

In an attempt to partially replicate the gardening environment we had in Iowa, for Ruth’s birthday this spring I arranged for our daughter, Suzie, and her husband, Kevin, to duplicate the raised beds system that worked so well in Iowa.  The project was started the 25th of April and completed 3 weeks later. As you can see it turned out extremely  well.  Some plants are already growing and I am looking forward to see the trellis parts covered with vines. 

If there is a bright spot in the coronavirus debachle it could be the return to backyard gardening.  I remember the Victory Gardens of WWII in the 1940s.  Then, as now, it was good for the environment, it provided a source of inexpensive nutritious food, and it brought families together. What could be better than that?

      Greeting from Doc and Ruth Holliday — now firmly planted in Idaho!

Thursday, June 11, 2020

The Semmelweis Reflex

My friend and former colleague, Robert “Dr. Bob" Scott, DVM would often lecture students and scholars alike about the importance of seeing everything you look at. This is a corollary to the scriptural admonition found in Matthew 11:15; “...he that hath ears to hear, let him hear.”

Laying aside any spiritual (or political) aspects of that concept, what are some things that we commonly look at but do not see?

One example; in spite of a broad array of research revealing evidences of animal intelligence, most livestock owners still scoff at the notion that our domestic animals have nutritional wisdom. Perhaps, they equate the eating behavior of animals in a CAFO with that of relatively unconfined animals allowed at least a modicum of choice to satisfy their individual needs for energy, protein, fiber, and minerals.

When promoting the benefits of cafeteria-style mineral feeding, I am often reminded of Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, a mid-nineteenth century Hungarian physician who practiced in a birthing clinic in Vienna.

Appalled by the high incidence of, the often fatal, childbed or puerperal fever in his patients, Dr. Semmelweis developed techniques that lowered the incidence from over 30% to less than 5%. When he strongly suggested his colleagues at the clinic use the same technique, they ridiculed the idea. Dr. Semmelweis accused them of being murderers if they did not implement his procedures. The strife escalated. A preconceived concept of reality coupled with professional arrogance did not allow the other doctors to see what they looked at. Dr. Semmelweis was eventually committed to an insane asylum and was beaten to death by the guards.

Oh, I almost forgot! The earth shaking sin Semmelweis advocated was that doctors should wash their hands between examinations of obstetrical patients in the clinic.

In spite of all this, Dr. Semmelweis’ legacy is to be remembered as the Savior of Mothers and for the Semmelweis Reflex, a metaphor for the tendency to reject new evidence or new knowledge because it contradicts established norms, beliefs for paradigms.

When does your Semmelweis Reflex kick in?

              This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 27 July 2016

Friday, June 5, 2020

What are you really feeding?

For a valid assessment of any ration, one must consider you are actually dealing with 5 different rations. This is especially true of TMR’s (total mixed rations) for dairy cattle but also applies to other livestock including horses. The five different rations are:

1.      The ration printed out by the computer is the “Holy Grail” of many nutritionists and is considered to contain the final output of our accumulated nutritional knowledge coupled with the latest chemical analysis of the feedstuffs involved.

2.  This second ration is what actually goes into the mixer. It rarely matches the print-out as accurate measurement of ingredients amounts becomes more difficult as the size of the mix increases.

3. This is is what is actually delivered to the feed bunk. If the ingredients are not properly mixed there will be different feeds delivered to different parts of the feed bunk.

4.  What the cow actually eats depends on many factors. The ‘pecking order’ in a group of cattle interferes with uniform consumption. Many cows will ‘sort’ feeds, eating only the more desirable fractions.

5.  The final ration is what the cow actually digests and assimilates into her system. This one may bear little resemblance to the computer print out but in reality is the only one that counts.

        This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 9 September 2015

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

To Brix or Not to Brix? That Is the Question!

Two items caught my eye in an article I read recently. One was a statement the USDA has determined that much of the food we eat today is grossly deficient in nutrient value – some say as much as a 50% reduction in some elements since the year 1963. The decline continues as minerals leave the farm gate and are not replaced. I am sure the same decline occurs in the plants we feed to our animals.

I was also intrigued by a reference to the use of the brix refractometer as a useful tool for the farmer or gardener to assess the nutrient value of growing plants.

The testing procedure is quite simple, requires no chemicals, and can be done almost anywhere, even the produce section of a supermarket. A drop of sap is placed on a glass table, covered with another hinged glass cover, and the reading is taken. Some refractometers have digital readouts which are easier to read. The only other equipment needed may be a small hand-held garlic press or a pair of pliers to squeeze sap out of stemmy plants.

Brix measures the sugar content or sweetness of the plant sap. Our taste buds do somewhat the same but the Brix reading gives a more accurate reference number for comparison and evaluation purposes. There are many Brix charts on the internet to help one evaluate the Brix reading for different crops and vegetables. High or low brix readings also gives you a an indication of the other minerals and nutritive elements present.

A Brix reading has many benefits for the gardener. In addition to being a measure of nutritive value it is also a soil fertility indicator. If a plant or plants consistently show low brix it indicates the need for remedial attention to soil fertility — perhaps a soil test and the use of an appropriate fertilizer.

A brix refractometer can be a boon to a farmer harvesting hay. There is an old saying that you should make hay while the sunshines. That is literally true as brix reading in a hay crop are low in the early morning, rise as the reached its zenith, peaks in mid afternoon and then declines. Timing of the cutting can be critical. There is a big difference in the nutritive value of hay cut early in th morning and that cut in mid afternoon. A brix reading taken periodically throughout the day will graph this phenomenon.

Read the complete story here:

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Tools of the Trade

Precision Tools
The other day when I had my van in for service, I noticed the fine array of wrenches and other tools available for use by the mechanic. Since I am a guy who feels fully equipped if I have more than one adjustable crescent wrench, I was impressed not only by the sheer numbers of the different tools but also by the specific applications for some of them. Given the necessary skills, the mechanic had all the tools he needed to take apart and reassemble the complex engines powering today’s vehicles.

I remembered then some things I learned years ago from my good friend and veterinary colleague, Dr. Bob Scott. Bob had a unique way of looking at things and could translate complicated subjects into an easy to understand broad overview using simple analogies. Here is his view of the role of minerals in plants and animals.

Plants are made up of air and water. If you combine carbon, as from carbon dioxide, with oxygen and hydrogen (also from air or water), you have the basic building block of starch, sugar, or carbohydrates. Add nitrogen to this basic formula and you have an amino acid or a basic building block for protein.

If you burn a plant thus reducing it to ash you are left with the part of the plant that came from the soil -- usually around 5%. Therefore, 95% of the makeup of plants comes from air and water, combined by the sunshine generated miracle of photosynthesis.

Minerals are nature’s “tools” that enable this process to proceed. They are basic to the enzyme systems that catalyze the storage of the sun’s energy into the chemical bonds within the plant itself. The major elements are the big wrenches, and the smaller wrenches are the trace minerals. All are essential. Any deficiency or imbalance limits the production and the quality of the crops grown. If some elements are lacking in the soil, they will be lacking in the crop. If they are lacking in the crop, they will be lacking in the animal eating the crop.

When an animal consumes plants the same tools used by the plant to combine the CHO & N to store energy are needed to break down chemical bonds and release energy to power the metabolic processes of life and production. If the plant doesn’t have enough built-in tools (minerals), extra tools must be provided. Most of our soils are so depleted in minerals it is almost a given that some mineral supplementation is necessary, especially to arrive at the high levels of productivity we strive for today. Without the mineral tools, proper digestion and assimilation of the energy in the feeds simply does not take place.

Even without computers, animals are smarter than man when it comes to balancing their individual needs for the elements of nutrition, especially the major, minor and trace minerals. Providing a choice in mineral supplementation allows the animals to pick the tools they need without being totally locked-in to only the tools recommended by the computer.
A Precision Tool

Most farmers probably wouldn’t think much of a mechanic who tried to overhaul a tractor with a screwdriver, a pair of pliers, and a couple of crescent wrenches. Unfortunately, in their role as animal caretakers, some livestock men seem to think a cheap sack of high calcium minerals and a trace mineral salt block are all the tools needed by our livestock to utilize fully the energy stored in ourfeeds. They are wrong!

This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 3 April 2016

Thursday, May 21, 2020

A Quick Start Mini Cafeteria Style Mineral Program

Many folks are hesitant to begin feeding their animals individual self-select minerals. No doubt some are concerned the unknown results many not justify the expense. Some are put off by the perceived need to 'fiddle around' with so many different items rather than just providing an OBFA (one-bag-fits-all) mineral. Then too, the fact that such an innovative program is downplayed and sometimes ridiculed by mainstream nutritionists is discouraging to say the least.

If you are curious about cafeteria-style mineral feeding and want to prove to yourself whether or not animals have innate nutritional wisdom and can balance their own minerals if given a choice — here is a program for you.

You will need a few separate compartments to contain the minerals used in this experiment. They can be as simple as a divided wooden trough or a couple of three-hole rubberized feed tubs.  Either way, they should be protected from the elements.

1. Provide one separate basic mineral mix that is higher in Calcium than Phosphorus and another that is higher in Phosphorus than Calcium. Most mineral companies have basic mixed minerals with different levels of calcium and phosphorus. Legume forage diets are higher in calcium and need more phosphorus. Conversely, Silage based diets require more calcium. Both of these products usually contain a similar variety or other minerals.  It is not necessary to withdraw any other mineral mixes you are currently providing free-choice.

The separate sources of Ca and P allow individual adjustment of the critical Ca/P ratio. The absorption and utilization of many other minerals depend on this relationship. (See Mineral Wheel)

2. Plain white salt should be available at all times. Salt is an extender in most mineral mixes. If separate salt is not available, animals may overeat the basic mineral mix for the salt and not the minerals.

3. Kelp should be available free-choice.  If they lack trace minerals they may eat a lot of kelp. If kelp consumption remains high you may want to provide separate sources of some of the trace minerals. For example, Copper or Zinc can be missed with salt at levels of 1 to 2% but the mechanics of getting an even mix are daunting. At some point it may be easier and cheaper to consult commercial companies that provide a broad range of separate free-choice mineral mixes.

Some Other Options:
  • If animals are eating dirt, provide a source of bentonite.
  • For high producing dairy cows and feedlot animals being fed "hot" rations, provide a bicarbonate buffer to alleviate rumen acidosis. 
  • If your cattle are grazing lush spring pastures, provide some magnesium.
  • Do not change your current ration.

If you have questions, please leave your contact information in the comment box.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Antibiotics — Good or bad?

I had a phone call from a man with a question about injecting his horse with antibiotics. His Vet had diagnosed a case of Strangles (Streptococcus equi) and recommended a course of antibiotic treatment. The owner wanted to know if that would upset his plans to be organic. I think he was concerned that using antibiotics would violate some basic precept of holistic thought. I assured him it would be a prudent thing to do.

I think antibiotics are a good and useful technology. Since Alexander Fleming’s discovery of penicillin in 1927 it has saved many thousands, perhaps millions, of lives. Antibiotics, in and of themselves, are not bad. The problem we have with them is misuse. Fleming warned, early on, that if penicillin was used at too low a dose or for too short of a time it would lead to antibiotic resistant bacteria. We ignored his advice.

In 1947, a hospital in London experienced an outbreak of staph infections that did not respond to penicillin. By 1953, the same resistant bug sparked an epidemic in Australia. In 1955 it crossed to the United States, infecting more than ore 5,000 mothers who had given birth in hospitals near Seattle –and their newborns too.

In 1948 Thomas Jukes, a poultry nutritionist at Lederle Laboratories, fed a few ounces of the left over growth medium from the production of the newly discovered broad-spectrum antibiotic tetracycline or aureomycin to a group of chicks. The results in increased growth rates were amazing as were the short-term health benefits.

Jukes shared his results with some colleagues and the practice of feeding low levels of antibiotics to livestock spread like wildfire. This enabled the start of the CAFO industry and was the beginning of the lethal game of leapfrog that organisms and antibiotics have engaged in ever since.

                                         This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 21 March 2018

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Are OBFA Minerals Suitable for Livestock Feeding?

In the early 1960s one of my dairy clients called me about a couple of problems he was having. Two of his heifers in late pregnancy had aborted calves about two weeks early. The calves survived but both heifers died. I recommended he take one to the Veterinary Diagnosttc Lab at the University of Missouri for an autopsy. The diagnosis came back "starvation” which really didn’t fit the circumstances on the farm. This shed little light on the problem so the actual cause was still a mystery.

Carl was also concerned that his animals were eating an unusual amount of minerals. He was feeding a ‘one-bag-fits-all’ (OBFA) mixed dairy mineral and they were eating all he would put out for them.

A feed store next to my Vet office sold products made the Morea Company of Crete, NE. Their main product was a feed supplement made from molasses. They also promoted a cafeteria style mineral program. Carl decided to try this new system.

The 12 compartment mineral feeder, on skids, was positioned in his cow lot, and he began loading it with the separate minerals. The cows watched him as he carried two 25# bags of minerals into the lot and emptied them into the feeder. When he entered again with another two bags, the cattle suddenly ran up, tore one of the bags from his hands and ate the entire contents of one of the bags. The main ingredient in that bag was zinc. Over the next week his cattle ate another bag of zinc and small amount of some of the other mineral. No more heifers aborted, the animals quit eating the OBFA minerals, and overall herd health improved. 

What was happening here? The previous season had not been the best crop year and the animals' preference for zinc indicated their feed was low in zinc. — this increased their appetite for zinc. — the OBFA mineral had a minimal amount of zinc, but was high in Calcium. — Calcium ties up zinc. (See Mineral Wheel) . Thus the excess calcium in every bite of mineral they ate increased the mineral imbalance and adversely affected the metabolic processes in the animals. The young heifers, pregnant and still growing, were the most vulnerable and suffered the earliest and most drastic symptoms.

In actuality, the herd was being force-fed excessive amounts of calcium which affected the absorption and utilization of other essential minerals. (See Mineral Wheel).

I suspect that if the exact same type and amount of minerals in this OBFA mix had been separated out and fed separately the animals would have adjusted for their own needs and no problems would have occurred.

This incident, from over 50 years ago, was the beginning of my education in mineral nutrition. It epitomizes the many pitfalls of feeding OBFA minerals. Since that time, I have never questioned the intrinsic nutritional wisdom that animals exhibit when given proper choices

Doc Sez: The goal of any mineral program should be to achieve balanced mineral adequacy for each individual with no excesses.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Trouble Shooting Mineral Deficiencies

I occasionally get phone calls something like this, “Hey, Doc. My horses have XYZ , what mineral should I be feeding for that?” Further conversation usually reveals they are being fed a bunch of different supplements — some force fed in the ration and some fed free-choice.

It is not usually possible to prescribe appropriate minerals just on the basis of symptoms, but there are situations when symptoms or signs do point to a certain mineral deficiency. For example, if the normally black hair coat of a cow is tinged with red it almost always signifies a copper deficiency. Hoof and hair problems may be associated with deficiencies of zinc and copper.  Then too, certain environmental conditions influence consumption of certain minerals — some animals take more sulfur in the spring and fall when building new hair. Cattle on lush spring growth pasture usually need more magnesium.

When encountering questions similar to the one above—and knowing that an accurate diagnosis is based on good information—I immediately start asking questions.

1,  What are you currently feeding? I am often amazed at the number of supplements some folks give their animals, I suspect sometime different supplements can cause problems with mineral interference. What I am looking for here, is any obvious incompatibilities or gross over feeding, Resulting in metabolic deficiencies even with adequate minerals.

2. Have you tested the water for livestock suitability and especially for nitrates

3. Do you provide separate sources of calcium and phosphorus?

4. Do you have a separate source of plain white salt available?

5. I usually ask the owner or caretaker, “What do you think is the problem?” Since I am sitting at a desk hundreds of miles away and they are right next to the animals, I believe their observation and impressions should be factored into the decision mix.

Answers to the above questions will usually identify some things to be changed or improved. Many times, that involves the removal of some of the duplicated supplements and I always recommend providing a full-array, free choice mineral feeding program.

This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 6 July , 2018

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Seasonal Mineral Needs

I am occasionally asked what minerals for livestock are required at different times of the year — for example, “Going into winter, what minerals should I make sure are available for my livestock?”     It is true that mineral consumption may vary with the season, under different circumstances, and even in different areas of the country. You may see other consumption patterns on your own farm, but here are some examples.

When cattle are grazing on lush, fast growing spring grass they will generally eat more Magnesium.

Young stock seem to eat more Copper as do animals having to eat moldy feed.

Sulfur is involved in hair and hoof growth, of ration changes.
When animals shed their winter coat and grow a summer coat they will eat more sulfur. The same is true in the fall when they are growing a winter hair coat.

Calcium consumption may go down in summer and up in winter. I have no explanation for this, but I suspect it has to do with a seasonal variation in phosphorus availability.

Animals will often drastically alter their mineral consumption within one day

of ration changes.

Animals will sometimes take more minerals in advance of imminent weather changes. It seems they anticipate feed may be limited during a storm and stock up on minerals to tide them over. Bison appear to be especially canny in this regard.

If the water is high in nitrates, animals will need more need more Vitamin A. They will take more Vitamin A and B when forage quality in stored feed declines.

Animals under stress for any reason will eat more Vitamin B.

If well nourished animals are changed to a mineral deficient ration it may take several months for them to deplete their body reserves and begin to show deficiency symptoms. When they are again supplied with adequate minerals, it may take several months for them to eat what is required to replenish these reserves — refilling the tank.

I don’t think it’s possible to accurately predict what minerals animals will need under varying circumstances. Thus, it is important to provide a full array of minerals at all times and let the animal’s innate nutritional wisdom make that decision.

In the last analysis, there is only one answer to the question, “What is the most important mineral to have available for your animals?” — and the answer is, “The one that’s most deficient.”

             This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 13 November 2017

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Science or Speculation

With all the furor over coronavirus there isn't a lot of other interesting news floating around on the web. The following headline did catch my eye, "Climate change is making nightingales' wings shorter and their annual migration harder, study finds .” I read on.

It seems a group of researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid have been studying the size of birds. They discovered that over the past two decades the wingspan of nightingales in central Spain have decreased. Natural selection caused by rising average temperatures in the region as the likely cause of the trend. They hypothesized this would make it more difficult for them to complete their annual migration to sub-Sahara Africa,

My question is: “If the short winged birds didn't survive the migration wouldn’t that tend to remove the short wings trait from the gene pool?>>

It is interesting to note the article mentions that under similar climate change situations in theUS, birds actually grew in size and had longer wingspans. Then too, Audubon Society research stated that two-thirds of North American birds species are at risk of extinction frpm climate change. Another study claims nearly three billion birds have disappeared from the North American continent in the past 50 years. 

A few years ago it was reported in USA Today that cats kill up to 3.7 billion birds on the continental US every year. That’s a lot more bird deaths than are attributed to climate change. I wonder how you tell the difference in the cause of death — cats or weather. Is it possible that blaming cats for killing birds is not as politically corrected as blaming climate change?

Another report that entrigued me was, “Ancient Mayans caused their own 'climate change,' shocking study says.”   The study suggests that ancient Mayans may have inadvertently caused their own demise by radically altering the climate. The research looks at newly found evidence in Belize that shows the Mayans responded to increases in population and environmental pressures by creating canals and wetlands. They also had regular "burn events" while farming their lands, which may have caused a rise in carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere. Before recorded history, the largest increase in methane around the globe is thought to have occurred between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago, coinciding with the increase in the Maya wetlands, as well as those seen in South America and China.

The newly discovered evidence, based on aerial scans, is thought to have occurred between 1,800 and 1,000 years ago. I read this as meaning the evidence upon which the report was based was gleaned from aerial photographs with "no actual boots on the ground.”

Both articles referred to above were interesting, informative, ad well written. Future research on these topics might someday result in valuable information.

I do not mean, in any way, to impugn the integrity or expertise of any of these researchers, but I am concerned the language of the reports seems speculative in nature rather than scientific. For example, the articles are rife with such ambiguous terms as: may have changed, may have caused, suggests that, likely caused, and many other. This is a plea for more science in so-called scientific reports and less ambiguity.

Having said all that, the most intriguing mystery still remains – “Who pays for this kind of research?” 
What say ye?

Links to the above reports:

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Aberrant Animal Behavior

Laying hens (especially the common Leghorn breed) raised in confinement (housed but not caged) had the reputation of being nervous and flighty. It was common practice to knock on the door before entering the poultry-house. Suddenly entering the facility without this advance warning would alarm the birds and the flock would rush to the opposite end of the building. They would often pile up and some birds would die of suffocation. It would affect egg production for several days. Funny though: some canny poultrymen would add ground up coal or humates to the ration and the birds would settle right down and become calmer and more content, obviating the need to knock before entering.

Groups of pigs raised in confinement often begin chewing on one another’s tail—tail biting. It’s not known why they do this but some speculate boredom or some sort of nutritional deficiency. It’s probably a combination of the two. Conventional remedy goes something like this—“Let’s cut off their tail when they are young so they have no tails to bite.” Funny though: pigs raised with adequate protein and balanced minerals seldom engage in tail biting. Unfortunately, once they start this habit

they will usually continue the vice even after conditions or nutrition improves.

Chickens in confinement have a similar problem—head pecking—also thought to be caused by confinement boredom or poor nutrition.Conventional remedy; “If you cut off the top beak they can’t peck on each other.” Funny though: if you feed them well and give them a little space they rarely pick up this vice.

The common thread to all of this is that malnutrition, dietary mineral imbalances and close confinement leads to all sorts of strange social behavior in animals. I believe this holds true for us

humans as well. With much of our population crowded into stifling cities and subsisting on food with low nutritive value and high levels of toxic chemicals - is it any wonder crime and aberrant social behavior are rampant in our society?

Taking away our guns, the equivalent of debeaking–or enforcing political correctness, commensurate to taiputation will not fix the problem. Perhaps we need to add some coal dust or its mineral equivalent to our human diet.

This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 11 November 2015

Monday, April 6, 2020

Immunity Community

     Back in the day when I was a lad, small diversified farms were the norm.  The family operations had a variety of animals, including cattle, swine, sheep, poultry and bees. Any animals on the farm, including the humans, were exposed to a unique mix of resident bacteria.  Since immunity is based on exposure, many good things happened from this association.  
Any mammal living there would be exposed to the resident bacteria resulting in the production of specific bacterial antibodies in the colostrum milk.  Thus, for example, when a resident cow calves, the immune factors in her colostrum protects the calf from the initial exposure to the bacteria and the  continuous low-level exposure strengthens its immune system.
It takes a couple of weeks of exposure for a cow to build colustral antibodies. If a “springer” cow was brought on the farm right before she calves, her colostrum may not match the resident bacteria and thus her calf would probably not receive the matching immune factors for good health and would be susceptible to infection from the resident bacteria. 
Many  of these farmers milked their usually dual-purpose cows during the summer as another source of income.        This milk was often separated, with the cream being sold and the skim milk fed to other animals on the farm - calves, chickens and swine - thus giving them an immune boost along with the nutrition. Then too, the milk usually went sour from the naturally occurring Lactobacillus bacteria, providing another immune boost.
Chickens produce maternal antibodies (like a cow’s colostrum) in the form of egg-yolk antibodies.  which mimics the function of the colostrum for the calf.  Raw eggs from resident hens are an effective treatment for calf scours since they provide another source of specific antibodies.
While bees are usually not considered livestock, chewing bee’s wax and pollen is reputed to be an effective remedy for allergies.  
Almost all the animals had access to the health benefit of grazing pastures, woodlots, and fence rows to self balance their nutritional and mineral needs.
  Humans on the farm also benefited from an immune boost when they consumed milk and eggs produced on the farm. Farm kids are healthier than city kids!  Children raised in a relatively sterile environment have little, if any, immunity to bacteria e.g. common Staph, Strep, Salmonella, E. coli, etc.
I don’t know if it’s related or not, but my wife’s mother lived most of her life on the farm where she was born.  She started most of her mornings with a couple of beaten up raw eggs — from her own chickens, and a glass of milk — from her own cows.  She lived to be 98!

Even though such small farms are basically a thing of the past, we can still benefit from the natural technology of a by-gone era.  Today, we can duplicate the immune benefits of the old-time “Immunity Community” by the use of: 
  • Colostrum whey immune factors 
  • Concentrated Egg-yolk antibodies
  • Selected strains of Lactobacillus acidophillus
  • Selected herbs
- all of which are available in selected ABC+ products

Visit or contact 
Advanced Biological Concepts
 at 1-800-373-5971 for more information.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Censors of Nature

The current situation with the COVID-19 pandemic 
brought to mind this blog entry originally published in 2015. 
 I wonder if there is a message here for us humans?

In the 1830s a devastating disease of swine called Hog Cholera or Swine fever apparently arose spontaneously on a hog farm in Ohio. For over a century this was one of the leading causes of disease in swine and as late as the 1960s was costing the swine industry in excess of $50 million a year.

In 1907 a vaccine had been developed. It involved injecting a little dose of the virus along with some hyper- immune serum from hogs previously vaccinated for the disease. In 1951 the virulent live virus component was replaced with a modified live virus vaccine but still required the use of the serum. Improper use of these live vaccines contributed to many iatrogenic outbreaks of the disease.

For many years the income derived from vaccinating swine for Hog Cholera was the financial mainstay of most veterinary practices in areas with large swine populations. In 1961 the USDA mandated a Hog Cholera eradication program and all live or modified live vaccines were banned in 1969. The nation was declared free of Hog Cholera in 1978. This was hailed as a great success, but unfortunately, it wasn’t long before other, heretofore almost unknown, virus diseases of swine such as pseudo-rabies began to cost the swine industry almost as many dollars as had Hog Cholera before eradication.

Even if successful, vaccinations only protect against one particular organism and if the immune system is already compromised— malnutrition, stress, mineral deficiency, etc.,—the animals are easy prey for any other virus or germ lurking out there. As illustrated above; when one virus is removed either by vaccination or eradication (Hog Cholera) the next virus in line (Pseudo-rabies) stepped up and functioned as a “Censor of Nature”.

Nature tends to eliminate or censor anything not meeting her standards of excellence. Weeds are attracted to a sick soil in an attempt to remedy the imbalances of minerals and organic matter in the soil. Insects are attracted to sick crops as one of nature’s methods to eliminate sub-standard plants. Germs and viruses are attracted to sick animals (and humans), to recycle inferior products.

The key to good health is not in a bottle of vaccine or antibiotic but in good nutrition and common sense holistic management of the livestock.

                 This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 12 May, 2015

Friday, March 20, 2020

Copper Toxicosis in Sheep

I had a question come up today about copper toxicity in sheep. Of all our domestic animals sheep are the most susceptible to copper toxicosis.
Copper is a required mineral in all species, but sheep have a narrow range between how much copper is adequate and how much is toxic. Most cases of copper poisoning in sheep occur when they are fed rations or minerals designed for other species that are more tolerant of copper.
When sheep are fed such diets over a period of time copper builds up in the liver because sheep do not excrete copper as efficiently as other animals. When the liver becomes saturated with copper, massive amounts of copper are released into the bloodstream resulting in tissue damage. This sudden onset is often triggered by some stressful event.
Note on the Mineral Wheel, that both molybdenum and sulfur act as antagonists to copper and have a protective effect if there is excess copper, The presence of these compounds bind with copper and prevent gut absorption and increase excretion of copper.
Sheep do well on ABC’s cafeteria-style mineral program and I have never encountered copper toxicosis in sheep on this program even though it does provide a free-choice source of copper. Animals will balance their own mineral needs if given the choice.

This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's Blog on 22 April 2015

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Milk Fever

Each incident of milk fever in dairy cows is estimated to cost the dairyman about $335.00. This figure does not include the cost of subclinical hypocalcemia, or other often associated conditions such as dystocia, retained placenta, metritis, and displaced abomasum. Milk Fever or peri-parturient hypocalcemia is caused by failure to maintain adequate levels of blood calcium at calving time.
          Several recent internet articles dealt with strategies to lower the incidence of milk fever in dairy cows. All were written by University folks and all contained pertinent information. They all recommended the same old standard fixes: feed pre-fresh cows low calcium and low phosphorus rations and forages (limit pre-fresh cows to no more than 20 g/day of calcium and 80 g/day of phosphorus), feed anionic salts for 21 days before calving, and treat affected cows as soon as any symptoms are noticed.
          The common thread seems to be to micro-manage the mineral consumption of all animals to conform to commonly accepted parameters. Given the variability of forages and feeds this may be difficult to implement on many farms. One writer warned against allowing cows “selective consumption” of forages and advised to discontinue all free-choice mineral feeding and to force feed all minerals. This mind set disregards individual variation of needs. If all minerals are force fed in a TMR, some cows get too much, some get too little, and only a few get what they need.
          One author did point out that high levels of calcium and potassium in the blood caused the bone to blood pathways of calcium mobilization to shut down. After calving, it takes about 72 hours to reestablish this process—during which time the fresh cow is prone to milk fever.
          I was disappointed no one mentioned the role of maintaining a proper dietary calcium/phosphorus ratio in the last three weeks of pregnancy. Mineral balance is often times more important than absolute amounts.
          The ‘keystone concept’ they all missed is this. If dairy cows have free-choice access to separate calcium and phosphorus sources, they will self-adjust their individual Ca/P ratios and not disrupt the calcium mobilization pathway mentioned above. When they calve they are less susceptible to milk fever.
           I guess until dairymen, and nutritionists, discover the nutritional wisdom of cows they will have to accept the current incidence of milk fever— estimated to be 25 percent calving with clinical milk fever and another 25 percent calving with sub-clinical milk fever.

           You may 
want to check out my article, “Addressing Milk Fever in Your Organic Dairy Herd.” —originally published in Holistic Veterinary Practice Dairy Herd Network July 30, 2009, It can be viewed at

This item was originally posted to a previous issue of Doc' Holliday's   Blog on 27 February 2017

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Liebig's Law of the Minimum

In 1840, Justus vonLiebig, a German chemist, published a book entitled. “Organic Chemistry in its Application to Agriculture and Physiology.” This book and succeeding revisions had a profound impact on agriculture. Liebig promoted the idea that chemistry could revolutionize the practice of agriculture — and it did.
A comprehensive discussion of Liebig’s many accomplishments as a participant in this cutting edge agricultural revolution are beyond the scope of this article. Here are some high points.

  • Liebig’s scientific investigation of the various aspects of the element carbon resulted in major contributions to agricultural and biological chemistry. Thus he is widely known as the Founder of Organic Chemistry. .
  • Liebig identified the chemical elements of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) plus trace minerals as essential to plant growth. These recommendations fueled considerable criticism in some circles, which controversy persists to this day. Nevertheless, Liebig is known as the Father of the Fertilizer Industry.

In 1840, Carl Sprengel, a contemporary of Liebig, developed a principle of agricultural science known as the "theorem of the minimum”, which stated that plant growth is not determined by the total resources available, but by the scarcest available resource. Liebig popularized this concept and it became known as “Liebig’s Law of the Minimum.”
Later, a fellow named Dobenec illustrated the concept with a barrel composed of staves of varying length. Just as the capacity of a barrel is limited by the length of the shortest staves so plant growth is limited by the essential nutrients in shortest supply. This basic image became known as “Liebig’s Barrel”.
While this principle was originally applied to plant or crop growth it is also applicable to a multitude of other situations including biological populations and ecosystem models. It even applies to product manufacturing where production is limited by availability of raw materials.
I am amazed that a principle developed almost two centuries ago has as wide, or wider, application today as it did when originally proposed. Liebig’s Law of the Minimum is a perfect fit when applied to mineral nutrition in livestock.
The Liebig Barrel is compatible with the Mineral Wheel and adds a new dimension to the team player concept of balanced mineral nutrition.

All of the above begs the question:
“What is the shortest stave in your barrel?”

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Treat the Cause, Not the Symptom

There is an article in a recent issue of Progressive Dairy Magazine. entitled Alternative medicine options for common ailments in cows." 
  It is a good article, well written, and certainly worth reading especially if you are interested in more natural treatments for your animals.  
That being said, I would like to remind readers the essence of holistic  thought is concerned more with finding and remediating the cause of illness rather than just treating symptoms. Obviously, the sick animal must be treated but not to the exclusion of dealing with the cause of the problem.
I was amused at the precautionary statement at the end of the article.  “Editor’s note: If you’re interested in any of the alternative medicine strategies described in the article, Progressive Dairy recommends working closely with your herd veterinarian to determine proper use and dosage.”   I realize it is a necessary PMA ploy to protect against lawsuits.  But give me a break!  That’s like referring a person with a common cold to consult with a heart surgeon!  Most mainstream Vets have little knowledge of or interest in alternative therapies. 
 Then too, their record of disease prevention in conventional dairy herds is not outstanding.  It is estimated that 50% of these cows freshen with either a metabolic or infectious disease.  Most do not complete two lactations. 

There are many complex causes of disease.  But consider this, down through the ages scholars and scientists alike have affirmed that good health is dependent on good nutrition.  
  • Hippocrates  (460 -370 BCE)  — the Father of Modern Medicine, ““Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
  • William A. Albrecht, PhD (1888-1974) —  the Father of Modern Soil Science, “It takes healthy soil to produce healthy plants, and healthy plants to produce healthy animals and people.”
  • Linus Pauling, Phd (1904-1994)   The only person to even win two unshared Nobel Prises,  “You can trace every disease and every infection to a mineral deficiency fr0om unequally yoked energy fields.” 
Thus, I think I am in good company when I point out that soil depletion has resulted in lowering the nutritional value of our feeds which impairs the immune systems thus setting the stage for disease in animals and humans. 

A basic principle underlying all this is that trace minerals are a key element in all enzymes and all metabolic function are regulated by enzymes. Any imbalance, deficiency or excess, of essential minerals may disrupt these natural chemical processes, resulting in  low production and greater susceptibility to disease.
Minerals are team players and interact with each other in complex ways.  (see Mineral Wheel).  If even one mineral is absent or deficient the team suffers. Whether it be team sports or mineral nutrition, to be successful you need all the appropriate team members on the field at the same time.

The goal of any mineral supplement program should be to balance mineral availability with mineral need for each individual animal. The best way to do this is  to provide individual sources of the full range of essential minerals.  This allows the animals to exercise their innate nutritional wisdom to self balance their mineral needs.  
Anyone who doubts that cattle can make valid nutritional choices needs to watch cows graze in a mixed pasture. They do not just mow grass like a lawn mower, but pick and choose each mouthful. minerals. Given the chance, they will balance their nutritional needs during each feeding period. They will do the same with minerals. 

If you would like to do a simplified trial on you own cattle, try this.  
  • Free-choice a basic mixed mineral with a 2:1 calcium-phosphorus ratio and another separate mix with a 1:2 calcium-phosphorus ratio. This allows them to self adjust the critical C:P ratio which influences many of the other minerals. (See Mineral Wheel.)
  • Free-choice a bicarbonate buffer.  Animals with incipient rumen acidosis may eat a lot of this ‘to put out the fire’!
  • Free-Choice kelp.  Most animals like kelp and will eat a lot.  If consumption remains high it may indicate low trace minerals in the diet. 
  • Always provide a free-choice source of plain white salt. 

I learned a lot by  paying attention to animal’s consumption of minerals, 
You can too!  
 If you have questions contact me at